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 The Inexorably Stealthy Sloth 

        “Three… two… one… ready or not, here I come!”

        All the toucans, spider and howler monkeys, frogs, golden toads, tapirs, anteaters, jaguars, iguanas, fire ants, beetles, nine-banded armadillos, bats, and Guatemalan voles had long-ago darted off to hide in the thick, dark jungle canopy, which left Samuel the Sloth to slowly — very slowly — count down from five. It used to be ten, but then his friends had held a little conference one day and decided that five or even just three might be enough for Sam to count down from, since he did it so slowly that they all still had plenty of time to hide. Sam opened his eyes and blinked in the bright sunshine falling in the clearing. He loved playing hide and seek, but the bright sun in clearings blinded him. So he was glad to set off into the dark canopy to find the others. 

        “Here I come!” He called out again, in case they hadn’t heard him.

 

        All his friends, at first, laughed at him. He was always too slow to shout out “Not it!” So he was usually “it” first. But that didn’t bother him. They all made fun of how slow he was at first, but they had grown to realize that Sam the Sloth wasn’t slow; he was stealthy. He was like a submarine: slowly prowling under the waves, ever so gradually sneak-sneak-sneaking up on some unsuspecting enemy; he was a well-trained and disciplined sniper in his ghillie suit, taking days to make his way up, gradually, undetected, to snipe his foe; he was like a lava flow, slowly but inexorably — inexorably, for he liked that word — flowing down the mountain, through the palm trees, across the road, and into the bungalow; he was a ninja master, slowly sneaking up and when you least expect it - BAM! He got you!

        And slowly — oh, so, slowly — inexorably — he eventually found them all. He snuck around slowly, upside-down, hanging from branches from long claws, draped in long hair covered in leaves and algae, into the canopy to find all the bats, resplendent quetzals, toucans, and black guans hiding there, then gradually he’d trek slowly down the tree trunk to find the howler and spider monkeys, then, even more slowly, down onto to the ground to catch the jaguars, armadillos, tapirs, and all the rest of the animals hiding there. Sometimes he interrupted them while they were hunting or sleeping. On a few occasions, they’d forgotten they were still playing hide-and-seek, but were good-natured when he found them, and he didn’t mind. Once he thought he’d found a beetle that had scurried off to hide only to realize that that particular species only lived about 8 days and he’d actually come across the aforementioned beetle’s son, who was, after all, the spitting image of his father. How embarrassing.

        After he’d found them all, it was Sam’s turn to hide. And he did a fantastic job, hanging upside down by his long claws from the tree branches, draped in a mop of hair with algae growing in it. He was, as he proudly giggled to himself, stealthy. Even the jaguar, so swift and agile, took days to find him, assuming he ever did. Sometimes whoever was “it” would walk right by him, sometimes right over him, in the tree branches. At other times, the jaguar and the ocelot would walk around in the undergrowth and call out “We give up!” And Sam the Sloth would smile proudly because he’d won again.